FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Why should I build my home using ICFs?
ICFs create homes and buildings that are more energy efficient, stronger, more sound resistant, and more environmentally sustainable than any other construction method.

Exactly how does the home owner benefit from using ICFs?
Comfort. Houses built with ICF walls have a much more even temperature throughout the day and night. They have virtually no "cold spots," and far fewer drafts.

Durability. The rigidity of concrete construction reduces the flex in floors and cuts shifting and vibration from the force of the wind or the slamming of a door. Concrete houses survive high-force winds like hurricanes far better than wood homes. When properly reinforced, they should also withstand earthquakes well.

Quiet. About one-sixth as much sound gets through an ICF wall as compared to an ordinary frame wall. This sharply cuts the intrusion of noise from outside.

Energy efficiency. The superior insulation, air tightness, and mass of ICF walls cuts the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling by 30-40%. This can save $200-300 per year in a typical home. In addition, it allows the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment, which can reduce the initial cost of a house by over a thousand dollars.

Design flexibility. ICF houses can be completed with almost any interior and exterior finishes, and can take any shape as easily as wood-frame homes. In fact, some interesting effects, such as curved walls and frequent corners, can be less expensive to build into an ICF home.

Isn't it hard to remodel an ICF home?
Most remodeling contractors have the ability to cut openings into an ICF wall. Most tool rental stores rent out concrete cutting saws for cutting openings.

Where have ICF homes been built?
ICF homes have been built all across North America, in every region, and virtually every state and province. ICF homes are prized in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and Canada for their energy efficiency and comfortable indoor climate. Along the hurricane-plagued Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, ICF homes are similarly valued for their durability and resistance to storms. In the Southwest, ICF homes keep their occupants much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. On the West Coast, ICF homes provide safety from earthquakes and fires. In the provinces of Canada, the growth rate of ICF homes has exceeded even that of the United States. Spurred by government programs to encourage the construction of energy-efficient housing, more Canadian builders already know what their U.S. counterparts are just now discovering: It is often less expensive to build with ICFs from footing to eaves than it is to build a stick-frame house to the same insulation standard.

How energy-efficient are ICFs for my home?
Based on research performed by Building Works Inc., houses built with ICF exterior walls require an estimated 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool than comparable wood-frame houses. A typical 2000 square foot home in the center of the U.S. will save approximately $200 in heating costs each year and $65 in air conditioning each year. The bigger the house, the bigger the savings. In colder areas of the U.S. and Canada, heating savings will be more and cooling savings less. In hotter areas, heating savings will be less and cooling savings more. Such energy-efficient performance comes in large part from the polystyrene foam on the interior and exterior of ICF walls, which range from R-17 to R-26, compared to wood frame's R-9 to R-15 walls. Also, ICF walls are tighter, reducing infiltration (air leakage) by 50% over wood-frame homes.

Are ICF buildings safer than wood-framed buildings?
Yes. ICF buildings are up to 8.5 times stronger than wood-framed buildings. As a result, ICF walls are more able to withstand severe weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Most ICF walls have a 2-hour fire rating, as opposed to 15 minutes for a comparable wood-framed wall.

Why are ICFs better than stick framing at dealing with rot and mold issues?
Over the past 20 years, builders have been asked to build tighter wood homes using house wraps, seals, caulk, tapes, and gaskets in order to reduce the amount of air infiltration/loss in the home. When these products fail, moisture gets trapped inside the open cavity of a wood stud wall, causing mold and mildew problems and rot. ICFs are closed-cavity construction, with the concrete filling the entire cavity of the wall. Given that there is no place for moisture to travel in the wall, and that foam, steel reinforcing bar and concrete are all three inorganic material, ICFs are resistant to mold and mildew problems.

How much do ICF walls cost?
Because of low labor requirements, total construction cost is only slightly above the cost of wood-frame, despite the use of high-quality materials. When built by crews experienced with ICF construction, completed ICF homes cost about 0.5 to 4% more than they would if they had been built of frame.

Putting the numbers differently, building a house of ICFs adds approximately $0.25-3.25 per square foot to the total cost. Simply building the walls adds about $1.00-4.00. But one can then subtract as much as $.75 in savings from smaller heating and cooling equipment.

How can I build my next house using concrete and ICFs?

Call Cornerstone Custom Construction, Inc at 763-754-3939 or email us through our Contact Us page. Cornerstone Custom Construction has the experience and knowledge to do the job right. Ask all the questions and see for yourself how ICF construction provides a superior house for a modest price.